We spent a good few hours after that thoroughly picking apart the topic of what we would or would not have done, till Tzumar poked his head in the door asking “Can I come back in now Mommy?”
“Not if you’re calling me Mommy.” Sitka told him, her tone much more harsh than her expression.
“Even if I have a peace offering with me?” He qualified bringing one arm through the cracked door displaying a large white paper bag.
“I suppose I could be persuaded to let you back in,” Tzumar stepped over the threshold making a triumphant whop sound as he did. “if you make us some more tea, please.” She added waving our cups at him.
Without breaking stride he hooked them with one finger muttering, “I figured that was coming.”
“Thank you my uliuli uli.” she sang blowing him a kiss, Tzumar made a fierce growling noise that Sitka ignored, choosing instead to return her attention to me. “So, what kind of questions do you have for me.” she asked brightly, laying her face on one hand and holding the fingers of one of mine with the other.
“Why could I see myself in the mirror?” I asked, blurting out the first inane question that came into my head.
“Ha, because there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to.” She asserted, I gave her a quizzical look. “The whole ‘vampires can’t be seen in mirrors thing,’ is the biggest misnomer of vampire mythology there is.” She took a second to let that sink in, then went on with authority. “You’ve already noticed that normal humans don’t see us.”
“Don’t, not cant?” I interrupted to ask
She held up one finger like I had noticed a significant point. “We can be seen if we chose to be I’ll get into that in a minute, but normally the only way a member of the herd,”
“The heard,” Tzumar repeated laughing. “It’s what we call the chattel under our auspice.”
“Excuse me!” I demanded getting to my feet.
Sitka interceded in a less bombastic tone. “Tzumar just means that we are to them, as shepherds are to sheep. Though he certainly could have chosen a less offensive way to put it.” Tzumar acknowledge her point with a ‘whatever’ shrug and went back to what he’d been doing, Sitka pulling me back down, continued her explanation. “Normally the only way one of them can see one of us without our intention is to catch our reflection in a mirror, or” she amended when Tzumar made as if to offer his two cents again, “if one of them is particularly sensitive to the occult they may catch us out of the corner of their eye or if they are passing a room we are in or vice versa.”
“Then how did the mirror myth get started?” I asked curious despite myself.
“Can’t say for sure but my best guess would be, the first of us to get caught that way glamoured whoever it was that caught them. It’s what I would have done,” She confessed. “Making someone believe the opposite of the truth is always easiest, especially when the truth is the opposite of what they want to believe.”
“But glamour, that’s real.”
“Oh yes. It’s how Tzumar got us lunch.” She reveled, accepting a roast beef sub and a cup of tea from him as she spoke.
“You coerced someone into giving you these?” I asked hoping one of them would deny it.
Sitka just looked at me, a slightly uncomfortable expression on her face. Tzumar, dropping a plate and cup on the table in front of me answered simply. “Yes.” Then he stood there, arms folded across his chest staring at me as I spluttered my disapproval. Cutting me off he added. “It’s how we get what we need, clothes, money, food.” Sensing my judgment he leaned in, using one clenched hand to emphasize his words. “Without so much as a by your leave, our souls were taken from us to ensure the herds protection. Parting with the occasional donation to make our existence less,” he searched for the word he wanted, “severe. It’s the least they can do.” I opened my mouth to point out that donations are usually voluntary but he spoke over me. “If it bothers you that much, think of it as a tithe. You’ll find out soon enough it doesn’t even scratch the surface of what we are owed.” Then he turned on his heal and marched stiff legged to the kitchen, leaned against the counter and ate his sandwich with his back to us.
Giving up on getting a rational answer from Tzumar I attempted to reason with Sitka. “But I still don’t understand, why take roast beef subs of all things. You all may have lost touch with mundane things like making a living, but the cost of three subs is a lot for some people to lose and seeing as how we don’t even need to eat,”
Soft chuckling, tolerant from Sitka, leaning more toward condescending from Tzumar interrupted my diatribe.
“I’m sorry,” Sitka apologized, noting my embarrassment at their reaction. “It’s just you know when you’re so used to something it just seems like it should be, well but obviously it isn’t.” She floundered to a stop, took a deep breath and started again. “I should have explained it better. As vampire you’ll still need to eat, far less than you did before to be sure, once a day really is fine, the higher in protein of course the better.” With that she plucked a large piece of roast from her sub and popped it in her mouth, as if I might need a demonstration.
Admittedly I hadn’t seen that one coming, but still, “I don’t understand, if we can live on regular food why are we drinking blood at all.”
Tzumar took over while Sitka finished chewing, apparently already past his earlier irritation with me. “Ok, so the blood, it fuels our super natural powers, um strength, speed, fast healing, you know all the things you need, to be able to fight demons, fairy that kind of thing, as well as our ability to glamour, be seen, find those under our protection. The food, the regular food that’s to fuel your body.
“Fuel our bodies for what?” I demanded not as over our disagreement as he was.
“What do you mean for what?”
“Why would we need to fuel our bodies at all?” They both stared at me blankly. “We’re dead.” I reminded them, I felt unnecessarily.
Tzumar and Sitka exchanged an Ahh haa kind of look then Sitka turned back to me. “Lillian,” she began a secret smile on her lips. “we’re un-dead, not dead. There’s a big difference.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Take your pulse.”
“Just do it.” she insisted pulling my left hand over my right wrist and pressing my fingers into it.
“I don’t feel,” I started to say, but then I did. A strong thump under my fingers, a long pregnant pause, perhaps three times longer than it should have been and then another.
“You see.” Sitka said reading my expression. You still have a heartbeat, a pulse. Granted it’s a lot slower than it was but it’s there, because you’re not dead, your undead.”
“Which means as far as we can tell; that although the soul has been evicted from the premises the body doesn’t require it to go on. Think of it as an accessory that’s gone out of style, probably better off without it, you’ll get more dates that’s for sure.”
Sitka shot Tzumar a quelling look, clearly expecting his remarks to illicit a negative reaction from me. I however was too busy putting two and two together and getting five to worry about Tzumar’s insensitivity.
“How much actual blood do we require?”
I hadn’t asked either of them in particular but Sitka seemed to feel the onus was on her to salvage what was supposed to have been my welcome to our super secret supernatural organization talk. “Not much really.” She assured me, right hand raised in the manner of someone taking an oath. “No more than a, a token amount. Once a week at most.”
“Define token amount.”
“A teacups worth.”
“That is provided there are no imminent threats in the area.” Tzumar felt obliged to add.
“And if there is an imminent threat?”
“Nine times out of ten it can be handled with no more than a single pint taken from a healthy adult?” Sitka was directing a look Tzumar’s way that crossed the border of quelling and went well into blatant threat territory.
“And the tenth time?”
“Listen Lilly, what you have to understand is we don’t really decide how much to drink.” Sitka was speaking slowly and with an underlying conviction I found slightly menacing. “What I mean by that is it’s more of an instinct, a compulsion that drives us to take what we need in order to protect the people under our protection.”
“Sitka what exactly are you trying not to say.”
“Just that occasionally something will come up that’s so big, like a plague, demon invasion, blight, in other words something so big that it requires a sacrifice to be made, for the greater good.”
“So the stories of vampires completely draining people,”
“Are much more true than the belief that vampires can’t be seen in mirrors.” Tzumar finished for me, something more than defeat and less than triumph in his voice.
It was into the ensuing uncomfortable silence that Iollan walked, his face completely healed, beautiful and ageless once more I couldn’t help but wonder if anyone had had to die to make that happen.